Waterloo

On this day 203 years ago, the Household Cavalry were soldiers on a battlefield where history was changed.

The regiments of the Household Cavalry all fought at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18th 1815, in the last battle of a brief military campaign to stop the return of Napoleon Bonaparte and all won great distinction in the fighting; over the course of the day, Napoleon sent successive cavalry attacks to try and swamp the British lines, and it fell to the British cavalry to fight them off, pushing the French back despite being outnumbered and pitted against an enemy with better training, mounts and equipment.

The Household Cavalry Museum contains many artefacts from Waterloo which tell the stories of the men who made names for themselves on that field in Belgium over two centuries ago, including:

The Eagle of the 105th Regiment of the Line, captured by members of the Royals at Waterloo: A French Regiment’s eagle, personally given by Napoleon, was mounted on top of its standard, and represented the honour and pride of the soldiers who fought under it. For the enemy to capture an eagle was a terrible blow to the French Army, and a great honour to the man who took it (as such commemorated on the left arm of the uniform of the Blues and Royals)

– A lock of hair and a snuff-box made from the hoof of Marengo, the horse ridden by Napoleon at Waterloo

– The sword wielded by Major Edward Kelly of the 1st Life Guards, with which he killed Colonel Habert of the 4th Cuirassiers during one of the savage cavalry clashes at Waterloo (winning him a knighthood of the Order of St. Anne, as well as the personal commendation of the Russian tsar), as well as the tail of Kelly’s favourite bay mare, which carried him to safety despite a fatal lance injury to the head.

– The uniform of Sir Robert Hill, commanding officer of the Blues at Waterloo, including the musket ball removed from his arm on the field.

– A cast of the skull of Corporal John Shaw of the 2nd Life Guards; a veritable Hercules of a man, over 6ft tall with a career outside the army both as a boxer and a life model for the Royal Academy, Waterloo was Shaw’s first and last battle; he died during one of the cavalry clashes, accounting for 10 French cavalrymen before he was cut down (when his sword shattered, Shaw resorted to clubbing enemies with his helmet and the broken hilt). Given a hero’s burial on the battlefield, Shaw’s body was later exhumed and casts of his bones made to feed the vogue in British society for souvenirs with a connection to the battlefield.

– The prosthetic leg of the Earl of Uxbridge. A musket wound sustained at Waterloo necessitated the amputation of his right leg below the knee; dissatisfied with the prosthesis provided for him, Uxbridge commissioned a fully articulated prosthetic leg which would be the standard of such until as late as 1914.

These artefacts and the histories attached to them are just some of the stories that can be discovered at the Household Cavalry Museum, tied to that grey, damp day in June where on a field in Belgium over 200 years ago, the course of history was changed…

The Marquis of Granby

On this day, July 31st, a great military tradition attached to our regiment was born… and the heritage of a great many pubs founded.

The Battle of Warburg, July 31st 1760: Fighting in the Seven Years War rages on between an allied coalition of British and Hanoverian forces against a French army.

Whilst leading the Blues in battle, the regiment’s beloved Colonel John Manners, Marquis of Granby, loses his hat and wig in a gallant charge and carries on until the battle is won. As the dust settles the hero is forced to salute his commanding officer bareheaded...

Though unheard of at the time, this moment gave birth to a tradition that continues to this day: still now, non-commissioned officers and troopers of the Blues and Royals are the only soldiers in the British Army allowed to salute without headdress.

John Manners, Marquis of Granby

One of the many notable figures in the Household Cavalry’s history, John Manners, Marquis of Granby was a prominent figure, known not just in the regiment, but throughout the whole British Army.

Born 2nd January 1721, eldest son of the 3rd Duke of Rutland, by the tender age of 20 he was serving as an MP for the borough of Grantham, and aged just 25 received a military commission as Colonel of a regiment raised by his father to fight the Jacobite uprising under Bonnie Prince Charlie. Whilst the regiment remained at Newcastle, Granby volunteered to accompany the Duke of Cumberland on the final stages of a campaign into Scotland and was present at the Battle of Culloden, 16th April 1746.

When Manners’s regiment mutinied due to lack of payment, he paid them out of his own pocket before they were disbanded. He retained his rank and campaigned in Flanders in 1747, serving as an Intelligence Officer for Cumberland and gaining an even greater reputation as a soldier and a leader of men.

By 1752, Manners was suggested for the position of Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues) but it took a further 6 years of parliamentary advancement before he gained the Royal support required for such a position. On 18th March 1755 he was promoted to Major-General and finally appointed Colonel of the Blues on 27th May 1758.

Granby was one of the first officers to not only recognise the importance of welfare and morale amongst troops, but to address the issue. The impact of his leadership changed the character of British soldiering and thus so improved, the properly led army proved unbeatable in war. As a sign of respect, nearly all portraits of Granby depict him mounting a horse, or helping the wounded.

To this day, Granby is particularly remembered in the military for his custom of helping old soldiers from his regiment retire into sustainable work, ensuring they were able to support both themselves and their families. Subsequently, and perhaps more widely appreciated, he is believed to have more public houses in Britain named after him than any other person!

In Memoriam, July 20th 1982

Today is a rather solemn occasion for the Household Cavalry. On this day 35 years ago, four members of the Regiment and seven horses lost their lives when the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated a car bomb at 10:40am in Hyde Park. The Blues and Royals, riding down from Knightsbridge Barracks to perform the Changing of the Guard at horse Guards Parade were hit by the explosion.

The blast was one of two such attacks that day in London (a second bomb blast at 12:55pm in Regent’s Park claimed the lives of seven members of the Royal Green Jackets).

Four members of the Blues and Royals (Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Corporal Major Roy Bright, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper Simon Tipper) were killed by the bomb, while seven of the Regiment’s horses (Cedric, Epaulette, Falcon, Rochester, Waterford, Yeastvite and Zara) either died in the blast or were put down due to the severity of their injuries.

The Museum has in its collection several items connected to this tragic event, including the helmet worn by Trooper Simon Tipper on that day, as well as the hoof and damaged bridle of horse Sefton.

Sefton wounds from bomb blast were so severe it was believed he would not survive. He endured 8 hours of surgery, a record in veterinary terms at that time, treating over 34 injuries, all of them potentially life threatening. After the surgery he was given a 50/50 chance of survival, but made an amazing recovery that turned him into a national symbol of defiance. He returned to active duty with the Regiment, being awarded Horse of the Year that October.

Sefton retired from active service on 29th August 1984 and lived out the remainder of his life at a rest home for horses in Buckinghamshire. He died at the age of 30 from health complications believed to be related to the injuries he sustained in the bombing.

Remembrance

Helmet of Trooper Simon Tipper of the Blues and Royals, who died 20th July 1982 in an IRA car bombing.